Labelled as a sequel to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change, Morning Phase sees Beck returning to familiar territory after a somewhat disjointed period and is easily the LA native’s best album in a long time. A wholly emotive and reflective personal journey of self awareness and discovery, the singer essentially picks up from where his twelve year old predecessor left off, chronicling a difficult period in his life following the end of a long term relationship.
Although there is admittedly some overlap from Sea Change there are also some brighter, more hopeful moments amongst the melancholia, with a real sense of progression throughout. Following what is ultimately a very simple structure, the record floats effortlessly between darkness and light, with the moments in between often providing the greatest intrigue. It gets off to the finest of starts with the beautifully dreamy ‘Morning’ providing a twilight moment before the realisation of the sombre reality kicks in. Beck has never been afraid to confront his dark side, and on the sequential songs ‘Say Goodbye’, ‘Blue Moon’ (undoubtedly his best single release in years) and ‘Unforgiven’, we witness what is essentially an emotional digression culminating in the darkly disconsolate ‘Wave’, a haunting song signalling his slow descent into despair.
After this bleak midpoint however, the mood noticeably begins to lighten and, as is his trademark, Beck reverts back to his country/folk inspired pop sound for affable jingles like ‘Blackbird Chain’ and the gorgeously atmospheric ‘Country Down’, the point in the record where he appears to reach his catharsis. Although a revisiting of a classic album may seem a strange decision after such a long gap, Beck has triumphed with this deeply intimate and infinitely progressive record, laying waste to any claims that he has been suffering from a lack of inspiration and passion in the years in between. If there is one criticism to be made of Morning Phase it’s that it sounds unmistakably like a Beck album and therefore doen’t demonstrate a notable artistic progression. Then again, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.